Director: Christopher Nolan
Certificate: 12 A
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, My Cocaine, Casey ‘Holy over-achieving older brother, Batman!’ Affleck
Running Time: 2hr 49min
Plot: A spaceman (Matthew McNeverWearsHisShirt) who likes space can’t go to space because humans have destroyed the planet, which is now a barren dustbowl capable of producing no food other than high fructose corn syrup. Then a ghost tells him to go to space, which he does do, not because he particularly wants to but because he can’t maintain his rockin’ bod with a diet of soda poured over Capn’ Crunch so must find a new planet to make tofu on.
Rockets. Space. The universe. You can feel it. You can feel it right there, right down in your plumbs. Yeah. This film is a promise of the future; flock to it, become Icarus for three hours, then leave confused.
Interstellar, Christopher’s Nolan’s great big space adventure movie comeback after soggy superhero flop The Dark Knight Rises, is one hell of a spectacle. To imagine the levels of scientific preparation and budgetary allowance that went into this film following its, ahem, inception, boggles the mind, perhaps even more so than does the contemplation of the questions which the film asks its audiences to consider: Where have humans come from, and where are we going? Are we an experiment, the writhing amusement at the heart of some sick game being played out on an ant-farm of cosmic proportions? Are we meant to be here and, considering how badly we’ve messed up, do we as a species even deserve a second shot at planetary domination? These are things everyone wants to know, but why bother asking them unless you really, really want to find out the answers? Despite being the cinematic event of the year, with more funding (and most of the staff as advisors) than Nasa, Nolan’s Interstellar isn’t bold enough to tackle such quandaries.
In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick acknowledged that there’s a whole universe out there which we know sod all but which we ought to contemplate as rational beings and be awed by as spiritual ones. In Interstellar, Christopher Nolan acknowledges that there is a whole universe out there which we know sod all about but which we can pretend we do because universal love is the most powerful force that exists in the emotional dimension, therefore anything we want to happen can and by channelling this into our – and so on. This criticism is going nowhere, probably because the film, despite taking us through the ass crack of the solar system and back, splutters and struggles to lift off from the launch pad of its astronomical potential. Interstellar is a huge, majestic beast, but it creaks under its own massive expectations, while studio pressure has warped the film towards financial goals that demand pleasure over potency.
That overloading Nolanised solemnity, so talked about in film journalism and so replicated in the likes of Prisoners, Man of Steel and X-Men: Days of Future Past, is markedly absent from Interstellar. The script is funny at times, but in a wry, pre-packaged, begging kind of way. It is funny objectively but its attempts at levity have even less of a foothold here than Bruce Wayne did when he climbed out of that underground prison in the third Batman film (would’ve been way easier if all the prisoners went up the same rope then just gave one another leg ups, but what can you do?). Interstellar wants you see it, live it and believe it , but isn’t concerned if you don’t understand it. Massive planet-wide tsunami coming at you on an Imax screen? Ok, let’s forget that the first clichéd hour made no sense. Interstellar is ninety minutes of loud noises juxtaposed with another ninety minutes of a lack of noises, coupled with some breathtaking imagery (worm holes, black holes, hole in ones, holy shits). It’s all astonishing to behold, yes, but it lacks the extra-sensory delights to be found in Space Odyssey, or even Star Wars/Trek for that matter.
The final hour of Interstellar is a fumbling, jumbling mess, abstract but far from avant-garde. Rather, it is filled with the kind of insincere inspirational mumbo-jumbo one would expect from an office wall hanging – humanity is the best, humanity is the one, humanity will survive. Matt Damon’s character (Spoiler? Only if you don’t like Matt Damon) is an easy metaphor for the current state of capitalist greed, but it doesn’t mean that we can waste half an hour dwelling on it. The Walking Dead’s current season has tackled this pressing concern with more tact, and that show is only mildly compelling.
If a well-rounded, world famous filmmaker isn’t going to enlighten then they should at least entertain. In his defence, Nolan does do this. Watching Interstellar on a big screen was intense, but so was the involuntary viewing of the triple-double-decker sized Lurpak advert which preceded the main event. Magnified to such an extent on a big screen it’s no hard task identify mediocre acting (Anne Hatahway, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck), classic cookie cutter characters (Matthew McConaughey and Michael Caine’s) and the disturbing lack of a coherent narrative. If you’ve seen Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, re-imagine it but with a bigger budget, a more ambitious director and a much more realistic scientific groundwork.